White still has hope, despite setbacks

2014-07-08 00:00

SHARKS director of rugby Jake White continued to put on a brave face despite another setback in their quest for Super Rugby success.

The Durban side were top of the table a little over a fortnight ago, but things have quickly turned for the South African Conference winners.

Back-to-back bonus-point wins from title favourites the Waratahs, one of them a game in hand, have since blown the Sharks away, while a 27-20 defeat to the Cheetahs over the weekend, coupled by the Crusaders beating the Blues, has pushed them down to third.

It is a worrying loss of form for White, who made wholesale changes for the game, and that was about the only fact that he admitted to.

“It’s the first time we’ve lost two games in a row this season,” he said, taking into account their loss to the Stormers prior to the June international break. “We don’t want to get into a situation where we just keep losing.”

The former Springbok boss continues to argue that his side are in a good position, despite them now facing the reality of having only a slim chance of ending in the top two and with it securing an automatic home semi-final berth — plus the fact that the top two get a bye in the first week of the play-offs.

The reality of the situation is that it is incredibly tough to travel away from home and win the competition. So much so that only once in the competition’s 18-year history has a team won a final overseas — the Crusaders won the 2000 decider in Canberra against the Brumbies.

But White continues to feel otherwise.

“I just sense that everybody is so negative about the fact that, ‘Gee, they can’t win the competition any more’,” he reiterated after the Cheetahs defeat.

“Everyone assumes that if you finish third in the competition going into the play-offs, you have absolutely no chance. You may as well call off the competition when the teams finish first and second then.

“I still feel we’re in a great position. This team have won the conference, they have 46 points and still have a chance of getting a home semi-final. So I still think we have a massive chance of winning this competition and I still believe we can.”

He already indicated over the weekend that he may consider fielding a “B team” when they travel to Cape Town to face the Stormers in their final regular season match this weekend. In doing so, they will be almost surrendering second place, but on the flip side keeping their “A team” as fresh as possible for the final push.

On the other hand, it is a game in which they will have to match what the Crusaders do in their final result against the Highlanders in Christ­church. The New Zealanders have a plus eight points difference and the permutations are many.

The least the Sharks will have to do is win with a bonus point and by a healthy margin.

“It’s going to be a tough week, but I’m full of confidence,” White added. “We gave some guys an opportunity to rest and they’ll be nice and fresh next week. Cape Town is a tough place to go, you could see by the way they beat the Bulls, but if you want to win this competition, you’re going to have to win in tough situations.”

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